The Face of Evil
I have come to call The Evil Within “Resident Silent Evil Hill 4” as that’s what it feels like–a strange blending of the oppressive environmental horror of the Silent Hill series that the weapon/item based survival horror of the Resident Evil series. It’s a game with a lot of fantastic ideas, a horror opus from an old master, Shinji Mikami, that at many times made me gag, cringe, and have mini-panic attacks. It’s the sort of game that makes you repeat to yourself “this isn’t ok. None of this is OK.” At times the game makes you doubt reality itself, or at least the game world, which is a testament to how immersive the game is. The only thing that pulls you out of the bone chilling action, is the frustrating difficulty that at times feels more unfair than scary. However, if you have the grit to make it through the game, you will be rewarded with one of the best horror experiences we have seen in ages.
The Evil Within puts you in the shows of Sebastian Castellanos. Sebastian has been tasked with investigating a murder and while doing so, he begins encountering elements of what appear to be a supernatural force at work. Sebastian’s allies are slaughtered around him, and he soon finds himself alone in a world where the laws of reality seem to not make much sense anymore. He pushes forward, from horrific locale to horrific locale, trying to find the truth behind this menacing force that is plaguing him. In the process, he realizes that not everything is what it seems and that true evil is much, much scarier than any supernatural force.
It’s really hard to be more specific without spoiling things. Heck, I can’t even reveal the name of the main antagonist without seriously ruining a few early scenes in the game for you. But suffice it to say, the name “ The Evil Within ” isn’t meaningless, and you will routinely come up against themes of moral doubt, questioning of your identity, and the unreliability of the world around you. All of this cerebral horror is tied together with a good heaping helping of old fashioned gore, meant to make you feel uneasy about pretty much everything the game has to throw your way. At points, the game is just scary, while at other points it’s revolting. It does it’s best to drag you through the spectrum of negative human emotion, kicking and screaming.
The game controls like your pretty standard over the shoulder shooter, very reminiscent of Resident Evil 4 . Sebastian walks slowly by default allowing you to drink in your dark surroundings, and can break off into a limited sprint if he needs to, but he can’t fire his gun while sprinting. There are no roundhouse kicks or cinematic finishers, though you can sneak up on enemies from behind to deal more damage.
The enemies in this game are probably where much of the horror, and the frustration, come in. Unlike Resident Evil and more like Silent Hill , weapons and ammo are incredibly scarce. Enemies take a couple shots to take down, but even then they aren’t guaranteed to stay down. The only way to make sure an enemy stays dead is to burn them with a match or other incendiary item. However, these are even more rare than your weapons, and only a limited quantity can be held. So you will have to be very picky about which enemies you choose to 100% kill and which ones you decide to let lay writhing on the floor to someday get up again.
This means it’s essentially impossible to actually kill all the enemies around you because you simply don’t have the tools. This means that you will be spending much of your time running. The fact that you always have the choice to fight, but more often than not it’s a bad idea, is actually what makes The Evil Within stand out when compared to other survival horror games. If you stand and fight you will likely survive, but you will also likely NOT survive your next encounter due to the scarcity of weapons and items in the game. So choosing your battles is key. Scattered around the maps are a number of traps you can also take advantage of. Making the lumbering and shambling mutilated corpses that chase you walk into a bomb wire or fall into a pit is incredibly satisfying and also a good way to conserve your ammo.
However, this mechanic, along with the resilient enemies, is what causes some of the most frustrating points in the game. Sometimes you’ll think your safe only to have an enemy resurrect and trigger a bomb and there goes all your health. Sometimes you’ll be backed up slowly into a wall only to trigger a trap yourself and die. There are some enemies in the game which are literally immortal, and you have to run from them in Nemesis like chase sequences, but once again you’ll frequently find yourself running into traps. These portions of the game are less scary and more frustrating because the traps you run into are always just off screen, so it doesn’t feel like you had a chance to strategically avoid them. You are fighting the camera more than the hordes of the undead. This only gets more frustrating when you have to deal with enemies that can deal one hit kills. Chainsaws anyone?
The invincible enemies are actually the most frustrating as they subvert the whole them of “choose your battles.” Much of what makes The Evil Within scary is that your brain is constantly choosing to run or fight, but when the game orders you to run and you somehow find yourself not running well enough to survive, your fear turns to anger and you have to put the controller down for a while. But your controller never stays down long because The Evil Within does a great job of making you want to know more.
If there’s one thing I absolutely love about The Evil Within it’s the atmosphere. You know how Resident Evil and Silent Hill have out of place puzzles where you have to find a crank here or a pendant there? Well, The Evil Within has its fair share of puzzles, but it’s a lot less “put tab A into slot B” and a lot more “cut open this corpse and sift through the organs for a key.” These sequences feel reminiscent of the Saw movie franchise, back when it wasn’t trying to milk torture porn for all it’s worth. They force you to do honestly gut churning activities to increase your feeling of unease.
This is a very gory game, but I have to say it’s not gratuitous. Sure, blood splatters everywhere and organs are dripping out of mutilated corpses left and right, but it never feels like a senseless slasher flick. Instead, the gore is used much like gore is used in Silent Hill , as a way to show you that whatever is happening just isn’t right. Still, this isn’t for the faint of heart. There is enough blood in this game to fill the grand canyon, and even the “leveling up” process, which earns you upgrades and new skills, involves basically sitting in an electric chair.
The Evil Within is an odd beast of a game that straddles the line between helpless atmosphere horror and zombie action shooter. It is certainly a huge step above the Michael Bay-esque Resident Evil 6 . If not for the unfortunate frustrating points, which really take you out of the bleak atmosphere, I would say this would set the bar for horror excellence. Unfortunately, these small drawbacks will cause you to frequently put the game down, and that simply doesn’t mesh with a horror tone. Overall, The Evil Within is a horror game that outdoes other horror offerings by leaps and bounds, but just isn’t perfect. If you want a game to scare the crap out of you this Halloween season, then The Evil Within is a safe bet.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
The graphics look decidedly last gen at 30fps and the letterboxing is a little weird, but the models are so gruesome its hard not to give this a good graphics score. 3.7 Control
The controls may be the worst part, as the camera will cause you to die more than the monsters will. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice acting is good all around and the sound effects, specifically the crunches and cracks of mutilated bodies, are incredibly disturbing. 4.5 Play Value
Aside from some frustrating points, this is one amazing horror game. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best